Giving you the knowledge and skills to make a difference in marine conservation.

This programme is studied on campus.

With the increasing variety and scale of human activities that affect marine environments it is vital that we have scientists who are able to take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding, monitoring and regulating impacts on marine biodiversity.

Run in collaboration with key conservation and management bodies, this MSc programme will provide you with an understanding of the issues that are central to marine conservation, and will develop practical skills and analytical ability that you can apply to real-world situations. You will learn from renowned researchers and leading practitioners, and will gain deep insight into a wide range of marine ecosystems in Scotland and internationally.

The programme will suit individuals looking to work in conservation bodies, environmental consultancies, government agencies, or progress to PhD research, as well as professionals who are keen to refocus their knowledge and skills on conservation of marine biodiversity.

Degree marketing image

Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month

What You'll Study

The taught part of our programme requires students to take nine compulsory courses over two semesters to develop a sound understanding of key issues and acquire essential skills. A special feature of the programme is a new course in marine conservation management, which runs through both semesters, and aims to build confidence, skills and experience to engage effectively with stakeholders in a professional role.

Semester 1

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

Marine & Fisheries Ecology, Conservation and Management (15 credit points)

Using the North Sea as a case study, one of the most well studied marine ecosystems, students will critically evaluate key issues related to the conservation and management of marine resources. Lectures from marine ecologists, industry consultants and government scientists working in applied marine management provide insights into current issues. Practical work provides training in data recording and analysis and the feedback received on your scientific report will strengthen your written communication skills. Class debate will provide an opportunity to strengthen your critical thinking skills and support the development of strong oral communication skills.

The course catalogue will be updated with this information shortly.

Experimental Design and Analyses (BI5009) - 15 Credit Points

This course is uniquely tailored for biologists and will provide students with the required background theory and practical skills relevant to modern ecology and biology. The unique format of example-led lectures and real-world based practicals will provide you with a foundation to become confident and proficient in analysing real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce you to using the programming language R to implement modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear and generalised linear modelling frameworks to analyse biological data with emphasis on robust and reproducible research methods.

View detailed information about this course

Population Ecology (ZO5304) - 15 Credit Points

The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which each reflect areas of current research in animal ecology. The content of the course is research-based, drawing on case studies from research-active staff within the School of Biological Sciences. The topics cover a range of ecological and spatial scales: from single species’ population dynamics to community dynamics, and from local to macro-scale processes, with a focus on the application of current ecological knowledge and theory.

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

In addition to the compulsory courses, you will also choose from a diverse range of elective courses according to your individual interests and learning objectives.

Statistics for Complex Study Designs (15 credit points)

This highly regarded course will take your understanding of statistics to the next level and provide you with the skills and confidence to analyse your complex biological data. Through a combination of lectures, computer based practicals and group work you will gain an understanding of how to deal with pervasive issues in the analysis of real world biological data such as heterogeneity of variance and spatial and temporal non-independence. Hands on computer tutorials will allow you to apply statistical models using modern statistical software (R) to real data, collected by researchers to answer real biological questions.

Molecular Ecological Techniques (15 credit points)

The course will develop the student’s awareness of how molecular genetic techniques, including modern ‘omics technologies, can be used to inform our understanding of aspects of ecology, evolution, population biology and conservation science. The course will describe the underlying central dogma of molecular biology that explains how genetic diversity arises and can be harnessed as molecular markers. It will then review the contribution of molecular genetics in individual, population and species level studies.

The course catalogue will be updated with this information shortly.

Semester 2

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Applications of GIS (15 credit points)

This course will give you an understanding of fundamental concepts in geographical information systems (GIS), an appreciation of the ways in which GIS can be used in ecology and environmental science, and practical skills in using ArcGIS software to answer questions and solve problems in a spatial context. The course is designed to broaden your portfolio of research skills and enhance your employability. Most of the activity involves practicing on a range of real-world examples from research in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, before choosing a case study and devising your own questions to demonstrate your command of the conceptual underpinnings and proficiency with the software.

The course catalogue will be updated with this information shortly.

Marine Conservation Management (ZO5009) - 15 Credit Points

Effective engagement with conservation of marine biodiversity requires an open mind, creativity, patience and an appreciation of shared learning. This course is structured to help you develop those essential skills while building your understanding of current issues in marine conservation and how conservation professionals engage with these issues.

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Fisheries Science (15 credit points)

The course, which includes a significant contribution from Marine Scotland’s Science’s Marine Laboratory Aberdeen, introduces students to the essential elements of fisheries science. It consists of three main sections: fishing technology and behaviour, fishery independent methods, and stock assessment techniques.

Marine Mammalogy (15 credit points)

You will take a comparative perspective to develop an understanding of how marine mammals live in the Anthropocene through a series of lectures, practicals and assessments. Field visits and practical sessions will provide opportunities to develop skills and expertise in identification and comparative anatomy and taxonomy.Through a student-lead learning approach, you will gain skills in collaborative work and time management and apply your knowledge and understanding of marine mammals to problems related to their ecology and conservation.

The course catalogue will be updated with this information shortly.

Marine Spatial Management (ZO5518) - 15 Credit Points

You develop an appreciation of the level of understanding of the physical and biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions, species survival and reproduction issues required to implement spatially explicit, sustainable ecosystem-base management, conservation and effective marine spatial planning.

Lectures from marine ecologists, industry consultants and government scientists working in applied marine management provide insights into current issues.

Practical work provides training in use of R, Excel, data analysis and strengthens your written communication skills.

Group and individual working strengthen your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and support the development of strong oral communication.

View detailed information about this course

Ecology, Conservation and Society (EK5510) - 15 Credit Points

Six themes that reflect current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society are explored through structured in-class activities challenging you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives.

Case studies drawn from different disciplinary perspectives (e.g., anthropology, economics, human geography, philosophy) increase capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems often framed as ecological.

Four short discussion essays are required; you will get detailed feedback for improving your writing skills.

Weekly student-led discussions allow you to develop your capacity for attentive exchange, informed argument and reasoning, and skills in facilitating discussion.

View detailed information about this course

Semester 3

Semester 3

The final phase of the course involves carrying out a research project on a choice of marine conservation issues in the UK or overseas. Projects are often carried out in association with an external partner organisation.

Compulsory Courses

Research Project

This course requires planning, executing and writing-up an independent research project on a topic relevant to the remit of the programme. In consultation with their supervisor(s), students formulate a testable hypothesis, design an analytical approach suitable for testing those hypotheses, analyse the data and interpret the results. Results are presented orally in the final week of the programme.

Research Project / Dissertation (ZO5902) - 60 Credit Points

The three-month individual Research Project can cover any area of applied marine and fisheries ecology and is undertaken under the supervision of a staff member who is expert in your chosen field. Many projects are also done in collaboration with an external organisation. The project provides opportunities for you to develop your abilities and skills, generate hypotheses and design ways of testing them and to analyse, report and discuss your findings. You will learn to take responsibility for implementing your own plans and modifying them as necessary. The project is written up in the form of a scientific paper manuscript.

View detailed information about this course

Course Availability

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Our programme incorporates a wide range of learning formats, including talks from invited experts; individual and group research; and field, laboratory and computer exercises, as well as traditional lectures and seminars. Many of the activities are designed to enhance communication and teamwork skills in a variety of settings.

The programme provides opportunities to engage with staff from Marine Scotland, SNH and JNCC, as well as professionals from NGOs and the private sector, representing environmental consulting firms, for example. The programme also incorporates non-curricular workshops on improving employability, such as CV writing.

Aberdeen is well situated for providing students with learning opportunities outside the classroom, including:

  • Outdoor field work at the University’s field stations and research sites
  • Tours of marine industry facilities, including Aberdeen Harbour, aquaculture sites and fish markets
  • Access to laboratories that monitor water quality, fish health and fisheries
  • Tours of Marine Scotland’s fleet of research vessels
  • Obtaining the certifications required for seagoing research

The research project is one of the main highlights of the programme, drawing together the knowledge and skills you have acquired to address a specific research question under the supervision of one or more experts in the field.

Projects can be field-based, laboratory-based or desk-based according to individual learning objectives, and can be undertaken in a variety of locations.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops

Assessment Methods

The programme is assessed entirely by continuous assessment: there are no exams. The degree programme is assessed using a range of formats, including written reports, oral presentations, posters, online tests, open book assessments, literature reviews, blogs, marine conservation consultation response, participation in stakeholder workshop, project plan, and the research project report.

Why Study Marine Conservation?

There has been a rapid expansion of marine conservation initiatives in recent years, as governments have responded to public pressure and international drivers for better management of marine environments, yet there remain significant challenges to conserving marine biodiversity.

It is vital that there are highly trained marine conservation professionals to ensure that issues are properly understood and management proposals are well conceived. By studying Marine Conservation at the University of Aberdeen, you will gain a deep understanding of marine ecosystems and biodiversity, the effects of human activities on them, and how management measures can be developed, as well as a suite of cutting-edge skills to put theory into practice.

The University of Aberdeen is particularly well placed to deliver this programme because:

  • courses are delivered by internationally renowned academics, government scientists, teaching fellows and marine resource managers;
  • Aberdeen is the centre of a variety of marine activities and the programme offers interaction with a range of industries, including aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, and renewable energy;
  • you will develop skills such as statistical analysis, mathematical modelling and geographical information systems, making you more attractive to prospective employers;
  • you will gain essential research skills, including project planning, literature reviewing, data collection, analysis and interpretation, which will be beneficial to your future career;
  • you will have opportunities to study at world class research facilities, such as the Lighthouse Field Station in the Moray Firth, Oceanlab located near the Ythan Estuary, Bettyhill in Sutherland, and Eynhallow in the Orkney Isles;
  • you will have guest lectures from statutory nature conservation bodies, environmental NGOs, industry, and government;
  • you will have the opportunity to engage with staff from the Scottish Government’s marine department: Marine Scotland, go on tours of their fleet of research vessels, and collaborate with them for research projects;
  • Aberdeen is within easy reach of a range of marine environments, habitats and species – bottlenose dolphins are one of the more spectacular species regularly seen from the Aberdeen shoreline.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

A UK 2:1 honours degree (or international equivalent), in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant subject; applicants with a 2ii (or equivalent), particularly with some relevant experience, may also be considered. We also consider individuals with degrees in a wider range of disciplines who are clearly motivated by the programme and have some relevant experience.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 51; Reading - 51; Speaking - 51; Writing - 54

Cambridge English Advanced & Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU / RUK Students £10,000
Tuition Fees for 2020/21 Academic Year
International Students £21,000
Tuition Fees for 2020/21 Academic Year

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Funding Opportunities

The following options are available to support your studies. Please click the links for full details and eligibility criteria.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.


The programme will prepare you for employment with the range of organisations involved in marine conservation, such as statutory conservation bodies, other government departments, environmental consultancies, and non-governmental organisations, by aligning training in skills and expertise with employer’s needs, and helping you to establish a network of professional contacts.

The research skills you will acquire will provide a foundation for further training in academic research. The knowledge and skills developed in the programme will also be applicable in fields of environmental assessment or resource management beyond marine conservation.

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has published an analysis of the “most wanted” postgraduate and professional skills in the ecological and environmental sector. Our MSc programme has been specifically designed to provide you with many of these sought after skills so that you are highly competitive in whatever career you choose to follow.

In addition to acquiring discipline-specific skills, the activities within our programme are designed to provide you with ample opportunity to develop generic skills required by employers, including communication in a variety of modes, critical thinking, problem-solving, team work, numeracy, data management, modelling, time management, and interdisciplinarity.

Career Opportunities

  • Environmental Consultant
  • Marine Conservation Adviser
  • Marine Policy Officer
  • Postgraduate Researcher

Industry Links

The programme benefits from contributions from Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

University of Aberdeen academics collaborate with colleagues in research institutions all over the world and have active involvement with local, national and international governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Research projects are often hosted by partner organisations and therefore focus on issues of real-world relevance.

Our graduates work across the globe

Aberdeen graduates can be found working within major marine research and management organisations across the globe.

Research Impact

Professor Paul Thompson and his team have been instrumental in mitigating the impacts of offshore installations on marine mammals in EU protected areas.

Watch video

Our Experts

This programme will be delivered by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of internationally renowned experts in marine ecology and conservation of marine biodiversity.

Other Experts
Professor Paul Thompson
Professor David Lusseau
Professor Stuart Piertney
Dr Beth Scott
Dr C Tara Marshall
Dr Paul Fernandes
Programme Coordinator
Dr Philip Smith

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.


The University of Aberdeen has the range of facilities to support academic study and scientific research that you would expect in a large modern university, and in addition has particular facilities and features that are especially well suited to a programme in marine conservation. Three examples are listed below.

Image for Lighthouse Field Station
Lighthouse Field Station

Lighthouse Field Station

The Lighthouse Field Station is located in Cromarty, at the tip of the Black Isle. It has the dual aim of undertaking and supporting research and integrating this work into teaching and outreach activities.

Find out more
Image for Field Centres
Field Centres

Field Centres

We have three field centres in Scotland that support our marine, ecology and conservation work. You have the opportunity to spend time at each of these during residential field courses

Image for Oceanlab


Oceanlab is a field research station located on the banks of the Ythan estuary overlooking Forvie National Nature Reserve. Staff and students based here are heavily involved in international projects and research expeditions.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX